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Shocks and awe as Champions Day delivers unpredictable drama

·4-min read
Jockey Hollie Doyle celebrates with horse Trueshan after winning the Qipco British Champions Long Distance Cup during the Qipco British Champions Day.
Jockey Hollie Doyle celebrates with horse Trueshan after winning the Qipco British Champions Long Distance Cup during the Qipco British Champions Day.

By James Toney at Ascot

Shocks, controversy and drama undiluted, Britain's richest race day certainly provided unpredictable theatre.

Indeed on a breathless afternoon, it's hard to work out the biggest talking point from Qipco British Champions Day.

Punters, denied these heady fixtures for too long, arrived at Ascot with more questions than answers and many left shrugging their shoulders and shaking their heads.

First Hollie Doyle delivered another Group 1 success on Trueshan in the Long Distance Cup, lowering the colours Stradivarius again, as Frankie Dettori raged at the 'disgraceful' tactics of rival Dylan Brown McMonagle.

Then Europe's all-conquering top miler Palace Pier suffered only a second defeat, as William Haggas, rarely lost for words, saw Baaeed establish himself as a true world beater in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes.

“What can you say? I’m still shaking a bit,” he said.

"He coped with the ground rather than loved it and he’s beaten the best miler in Europe, he's just getting better and better. You can't help but start getting a bit excited."

A virtual blink of the eye later and it was the Champion Stakes, Britain's richest race, a supposed head-to-head seemingly at the mercy of the top two horses in training, Derby winner Adayar and Mishriff.

But French raider Sealiway was reading a different script, perhaps revenge for all those British horses crossing the Channel to win the top prizes at Longchamp and Chantilly in recent months.

Sealiway was second in the French Derby and fifth in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe - hardly sluggish form - but still few gave him a sniff, apart from trainer Cedric Rossi.

"It's great to be part of this big event and I've been lucky to be part of this horse since the beginning," said jockey Mickael Barzalona. "He deserved to prove his talent like he did."

In between all this, Jim Crowley became the first jockey to win three races on this day, Baaeed part of a 215-1 treble, and Oisin Murphy claimed his third Champion Jockey title with just one race of the season to spare.

“Baaeed could be a world champion,” said Crowley. “He’s just a beast, he keeps getting better. It was magical, people forget he’s come such a long way in a short space of time. It’s a great buzz to ride a horse that good."

Murphy woke up this morning to lurid allegations about an incident in a local pub, admitting the stress of a close title race with William Buick had left him making some poor life decisions.

It's hard not to like Murphy and his open and accessible personality is just what racing desperately needs - he has flaws for sure but then who doesn't?

“It’s brilliant when it’s going well but when the bad days are upon us it’s very easy to not be there for me and they have been there," said Murphy.

“It’s been a real battle. This has been the toughest campaign for the jockeys' title for me yet.

"The last few weeks have been a real tough ride and everyone has seen that, I’ve had to make the most of every opportunity.

“The overriding emotion is relief. I set out to do something, I try not to fail and I’ve put absolutely everything into it."

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